Raheem Sterling is enjoying his best season in front of goal after his hat-trick inspired Manchester City to a 5-0 victory at Brighton.
The England forward got Pep Guardiola's side up and running in the 21st minute, curling an effort beyond the dive of Mat Ryan before Gabriel Jesus added City's second just before half-time (44).
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Sterling, who has now netted six goals in his last six Premier League games, then scored two headers - the second in bizarre fashion - either side of Bernardo Silva's tap-in to take his personal goal tally to 27 for the season, his best campaign for goals in his career.
Sterling's impressive stats
Raheem Sterling has scored 27 goals in all competitions for Manchester City this season - this is his best scoring season in his career.
Since the 2015/16 season when he joined Manchester City, only Harry Kane (9) and Sergio Aguero (7) have scored more Premier League hat-tricks than Raheem Sterling (4).
This is set to be the 1st season since 13-14 that Sergio Aguero isn’t Man City’s top PL scorer— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) July 11, 2020
13-14 Yaya Toure 20
14-15 Sergio Aguero 26
15-16 Sergio Aguero 24
16-17 Sergio Aguero 20
17-18 Sergio Aguero 21
18-19 Sergio Aguero 21
19-20 (3 games to play) Raheem Sterling 17
City, who were following up their 5-0 home win over Newcastle in midweek, have now secured second place in the Premier League to qualify for next season's Champions League ahead of their European ban appeal decision on Monday.
Meanwhile, a disappointing night for Brighton, who can still mathematically be relegated, leaves them eight points above the relegation places with three games left to play this season.
How City eased to victory on the south coast
Manchester City got into top gear pretty quickly and they were ahead in the 21st minute through Sterling.
Brighton: Ryan (6), Montoya (6), Dunk (6), Webster (6), Bernardo (5), Bissouma (6), Gross (5), Mooy (6), Propper (5), Trossard (6), Connolly (6).
Subs: Lamptey (6), Stephens (6), Maupay (6), Jahanbakhsh (6), Burn (n/a).
Man City: Ederson (6), Walker (7), Garcia (7), Laporte (7), Mendy (7), Rodri (8), De Bruyne (8), Bernardo Silva (7), Sterling (9), Jesus (7), Mahrez (8).
Subs: Foden (6), David Silva (6), Zinchenko (6), Stones (6), Fernandinho (6).
Man of the match: Raheem Sterling
The England international picked out the bottom-right corner with a curled effort from the edge of the box after the ball was nodded into his path by Jesus following Riyad Mahrez's clipped pass forward.
Jesus then saw an effort hit the crossbar after taking a deflection off Lewis Dunk, but it did not take long for the Brazilian to get on the scoresheet when the visitors doubled their advantage to 2-0 two minutes before the break.
Kevin De Bruyne's outswinging corner was flicked on by Rodri at the near post, which created a simple tap-in for Jesus at the back post for his 20th goal of the season.
City picked up in the second half where they left off in the first and De Bruyne was inches away from making it three when his powerful free-kick rattled the post.
It was three moments later, though, as Sterling claimed his second of the night, heading in an inch-perfect cross from Mahrez from close range.
- Brighton boss Graham Potter opted for five changes, leaving top scorer Neal Maupay on the bench and recalling Martin Montoya, Bernardo, Yves Bissouma, Aaron Mooy and Aaron Connolly.
- Kevin De Bruyne captained Manchester City as Pep Guardiola made six changes for the visit to Brighton. Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Eric Garcia, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling were recalled as City boss Guardiola rotated his squad at the Amex Stadium. John Stones, David Silva and Phil Foden were among those dropped to the bench.
Brighton had no answer to City's free-flowing football and it was 4-0 minutes later when Bernardo Silva tucked away a simple finish on the rebound after Ryan failed to hold on to the Portugal international's initial effort.
Sterling rounded off City's evening, completing his hat-trick with 10 minutes to go. He latched on to a long ball forward before an attempted defensive header from Adam Webster looped up and struck him on the head before rolling into the net, despite the efforts of Dan Burn on the goaline.
Man of the match - Raheem Sterling
Sky Sports' Alan Smith: "He's been great in everything he's done and he's topped it off with those three goals. What a season he's enjoying."
Sterling: Goals don't mean anything, trophies do
Sterling believes his goals will only mean something if they help Manchester City to more silverware.
While hopes of lifting the league title were ended long ago, City still hope to add Champions League and FA Cup trophies to the Carabao Cup they won in February. And Sterling - whose goals on Saturday saw him pass the 30-mark in all competitions for club and country - hopes to play his part.
"The most important thing to me is the value of these goals, that they add to the team," he told Sky Sports. "At the end of day we're trying to win the FA Cup final and win the Champions League as well, otherwise these goals don't really mean anything."
What the managers said
Brighton boss Graham Potter: "We were well beaten by the better team. The first half we were in it a little bit, at a stretch still. We had a couple of opportunities but not that much.
"Manchester City were very good, they've got some players that can hurt you pretty much everywhere. We're a little bit disappointed with how the second half went, we petered out but, at the same time, within four days we've had Liverpool and Manchester City. It's a big ask but we have to dust ourselves down and focus on the next few matches."
Man City boss Pep Guardiola: "I was pleased with everything tonight - the result and the levels we reached. We are now at a good level and are ready to play the last games of the Premier League and in the Champions League. We've forgotten the Southampton result (1-0 defeat last Sunday) as we played incredibly well there. Football sometimes is strange. We just didn't score there. We're a team who create a lot of chances and today we converted them.
"We've qualified for the Champions League which was the minimum requirement for this club. And these players have done it for the last six or seven years. We won it on the pitch and hopefully on Monday UEFA will allow these players to play next season. They deserve to be in the Champions League."
Opta stats - Man City hit five again
- Manchester City have won their last two Premier League games by 5+ goals, the first time this has happened in the Premier League since City themselves did so in three consecutive games in September 2017.
- Brighton suffered their worst home Premier League defeat since losing 5-0 to Bournemouth in April 2019. Brighton have lost all six of their Premier League matches against Man City, scoring just two goals and shipping 20.
- This was Graham Potter's heaviest ever home defeat as a manager and his joint-heaviest overall, also losing 5-0 in May 2016 as Östersunds FK manager away at GIF Sundsvall in the Swedish Allsvenskan.
- Gabriel Jesus has scored in 32 Premier League games for Man City - they have won 31 of those games and drew the other. City have now won their last 29 Premier League games when Jesus has scored.
Live Premier League
Manchester City are back in action on Wednesday when they host relegation-threatened Bournemouth at 6pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League, before Brighton travel to Southampton on Thursday at 8.15pm.